Transport CommitteeSupplementary written evidence from Heathrow Airport (AS 84B)

Thank you for giving Heathrow the opportunity to appear before your Committee’s Aviation Strategy Inquiry last year. I have been following the subsequent sessions with interest and wanted to write to you regarding the session on 11 February 2013 with the Mayor and his aviation advisor.

During this session both your Committee and the panel spoke about the importance of surface access to aviation policy. Colin Matthews also spoke of the importance of surface access during his oral evidence session on 3rd December:

“I think you will find that the question of surface access becomes a huge economic driver. For an airport in a new location, or one that is poorly served by rail connections, the cost of putting in those connections will be absolutely huge, whereas the case of an existing airport is different.”

I wanted to write to you to clarify the discussion with the Mayor and his aviation adviser regarding access to Heathrow from the West and Wales. Whilst it is true that currently there is no direct rail line coming to Heathrow from the West (passengers have to change at Paddington station and then can take the Heathrow Express—a 15 minute service, four times an hour), there are well developed plans for Western Rail Access (WRA).

The Government’s High Level Output Specification (HLOS), published on 16 July 2012, sets out its future investment plans for the rail network for the period 2014–19. As part of the HLOS’s commitment to improving railway links to major ports and airports, it specifically refers to the development of plans for a new western rail link into Heathrow, requiring that construction of the western rail link is commenced during Control Period 5 (2014–19) with delivery anticipated to extend into Control Period 6 (2020–25).

It states that:

“This will be subject to a satisfactory business case and the agreement of acceptable terms with the Heathrow aviation industry. It will provide a major boost to the airport’s accessibility, substantially reducing Heathrow airport journey times from Wales and western England, supporting the extension of the vibrant Thames Valley economy westwards, and complementing the proposed high speed rail access”.

Both the DfT press release accompanying the HLOS publication and the Draft Aviation Policy Framework confirmed that the Government had set aside £500 million towards the Heathrow rail link.

In a more recent parliamentary question and answer session on 5 December 2012 in respect of High Speed 2, Transport Minister Simon Burns reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to progress the Heathrow western rail link:

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the likely level of additional funding for the proposed Western Connection to Heathrow; and what proportion of that funding will be (a) provided by the Government and (b) sought from a third party. [131940]

Mr Simon Burns: The July 2012 High Level Output Specification includes provision for £500 million of funding for a new western rail access to Heathrow airport, subject to business case and agreement of terms with the Heathrow aviation industry. The rail industry is currently developing plans for the delivery of the scheme within the allocated funding. The cost of the link and availability of private funding will be considered in detail as the rail industry develops the proposal.

Heathrow Airport supports the principle of WRA, and recognises that it has the potential to deliver significant benefits to society including driving economic growth and employment opportunities, reducing CO2/local air quality, as well as reducing congestion on local roads and the strategic highway network.

This letter has also been copied to Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and Daniel Moylan, Aviation Advisor.

If you would like any more information about the plans for surface access to Heathrow, or our current surface access arrangements please let me know.

February 2013

Prepared 31st May 2013